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Sunday, 11 August 2019

‘Nexus’ by Alison Morton

Published by Pulcheria Press,
12 September 2019.
ISBN: 979-1-09731020-2 (PB)
ISBN: 979-1-09731019-6 (ebook). 

The Roma Nova books are an alternative history series based on the precept that the Roman Empire never totally disappeared but instead several eminent families relocated and made a new life for themselves in the small but influential country of Roma Nova. The country is ruled by descendants of the original families, and inheritance and leadership pass through the female line. The Mitela family is one of the most powerful leading families and it is ruled by Aurelia Mitela. Aurelia is a wealthy woman with large estates to administer but, as a good Roma Novan, she is also dedicated to the service of her country. She is a diplomat and sometimes an investigator, but she can never forget her earlier role as a major in the Praetorian Guard and her experiences in Special Forces. In her personal life, Aurelia is vulnerable in only two ways, in her devotion to her young daughter, Marina, and her love for her life partner, Miklós Farkas.

The story opens in 1970s London, where Aurelia is filling in as her country’s ambassador during the illness of the current ambassador. Miklós and Marina have accompanied her, although Miklós, whose passion is horses and horse breeding, has little taste for formal ceremonies. Aurelia has to juggle her diplomatic duties with her life as a mother, especially difficult in a society whose expectations of the female role is very different to that of Roma Nova. When she realises that Marina is being bullied at school, Aurelia intervenes to protect her daughter, the aftermath of which gains her an unpleasant enemy. She is confronted by a far more difficult parenting role when her friend, Harry Carter, asks for her help in locating his son, Tom. Harry is a senior official in the British Foreign Office, he has been a single parent for many years, since the death of his wife, and Tom is his only child. Aurelia has known Tom since he was a sullen, secretive teenager and suspects that there is little hope of finding him if he does not want to be found, and even less probability of persuading him to return home if he is unwilling. Nevertheless, she and Miklós try to find Tom, a mission that proves surprisingly hazardous.

Back in Roma Nova, Aurelia is asked to lead an investigation into the suspicious deaths of three prominent men, based in different parts of Europe and all linked to banking. Leaving Marina safely at home, Aurelia and Miklós set out to uncover the conspiracy that lies behind the deaths. As they probe deeper, Aurelia realises that there is a link between the killings and their previous hunt for Tom Carter. The violence escalates and Aurelia realises that, unless she acts swiftly and ruthlessly, there is a very real danger that she will lose forever the man that she has chosen as her life partner.

Nexus is set a few years after Aurelia, the first novel that chronicles the life of Aurelia Mitela as a young woman. It is a fast-moving novella with powerful and engaging characters. It explores different aspects of life in the 1970s, where conventional attitudes often clash with the lifestyle and life choices of a young woman of authority and integrity, who is used to acting decisively in her own right. A great read for those who enjoy exploring different settings and alternative history, with an unconventional, strong, female protagonist. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Alison Morton Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe. So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…
But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…
Now, she writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines: 

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below. To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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